Letter to The Guardian

December 9, 2000

To the Editor:

I am a citizen of the world's leading democratic republic, the United States of America. I am also appalled, saddened, and angered by The Guardian's new anti-monarchist campaign. I believe that by promoting republicanism your newspaper is doing a grave disservice not only to Great Britain but to the entire world.

Since childhood, I have been fascinated and entranced by the magic of royalty. For about ten years, the study of monarchy has been a serious interest of mine. Following the official activities, ceremonies, tours, weddings, and gatherings of the British royal family has provided me with countless hours of excitement and gratification. And you want to take that away.

This summer, I watched television coverage of Her Majesty the Queen Mother's 100th birthday. Perhaps my fellow Americans would reproach me for this, but the truth is that no American patriotic event has ever come close to evoking in me the pure joy and excitement that I felt as I watched these celebrations. No American tragedy affected me as much as the death and funeral of the Princess of Wales. Millions of people all over the world have been inspired and moved by royal events such as these. For a few precious moments, we have been allowed to temporarily forget the problems and deprivations of our own lives as we join in communion with a large segment of global humanity to celebrate and honour the traditions of monarchy. And you want to take that away.

You say that the monarchy is an anachronism. If it is, then that is why I love it so much! Must everything old be thrown away? The monarchy is the one institution in contemporary British life that preserves a continuity with the medieval beginnings of the country. Besides, republican forms of government existed in ancient Greece and Rome long before European monarchies were established, so it is simply absurd to maintain that republicanism is any more "modern" than monarchy!

You say that the monarchy stands in the way of achieving a progressive and egalitarian society. Are you not aware that the Kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are among the most tolerant and fair nations on earth? Surely the Scandinavian monarchies outshine Germany, France, & Italy and put the United States to shame as far as civil liberties, health care, and economic justice are concerned. Has not Japan, nominally ruled by the world's only remaining Emperor, built one of the most successful modern economies ever?

You say that the monarchy is incompatible with the agenda of the European Union. Is European integration now sacrosanct? Are there not many more British people skeptical of surrendering their sovereignty to bureaucrats on the continent than there are opponents of the monarchy? Which comes first: Britain or Brussels?

One of the many differences between monarchists and republicans is that monarchists do not insist that every single country in the world conform to our agenda. Americans who prefer monarchy do not advocate its establishment here, as we recognize that this would be contrary to our country's heritage and traditions. Currently only about seven percent of the world's people live in monarchies. You would make it zero. I would be thrilled if the split were even close to equal. Monarchy is part of the rich diversity of the world's nations, and the House of Windsor is by far its most famous example. A world without royalty would be a far less interesting and colourful place.

If you abolished the monarchy, you would be eliminating perhaps the most important distinction between your country and mine, and paving the way for others to follow. American cultural hegemony is feared throughout Europe, but at least on the continent the difference in languages helps thwart it. My father is not a monarchist, but he admitted to me that he can't understand why Britain would want to come to resemble a "mini-America that drives on the left."

The recent electoral shenanigans in the American republic cannot have escaped your attention. Whoever is inaugurated as our president in January will preside over a deeply divided country, probably with an approval rating of less than 50 percent, and will not be able to claim to be our national leader in any emotionally meaningful sense. In contrast, monarchs are almost invariably more popular than presidents since they have the substantial advantages of a non-partisan background and distance from the decision-making process. And far from being unjust, constitutional monarchy is extremely fair in the sense that the wealthiest, most powerful businessman has no more influence in the selection of the head of state than the poorest, most insignificant child. Only in a hereditary monarchy is this possible.

It is not my wish to see The Guardian prosecuted; my monarchism is not of an authoritarian nature. But I do not believe it is morally justifiable or professionally appropriate for a newspaper to try to artificially create a major national debate when it has not occured naturally. The media's responsibility is to report the news, not to manufacture it. You have no right to try to ruin Britain's glorious constitution, ceremonies, and traditions for those of us who love them the way they are.

Theodore Harvey

60 Lincoln Center Plaza, Box 93
New York, NY 10023
United States

Monarchy and the Media